View Full Version : Any good loop hikes along the trail?
Three other guys and I were planning to hike for 4-5 days from Amicalola Springs to Neels Gap in mid-May, but now a couple of the guys are wondering if we shouldn't instead consider a more scenic loop route (maybe in North Carolina or Virginia). Coming from Iowa and Wisconsin, we'd prefer to see some real nice vistas. And from a logistics standpoint (drop off and pick up) it'd probably be easier to do a loop hike. So... Does anyone have any really nice 4-5 day loop hikes anywhere along the trail they'd recommend?
Standing Indian in Western NC.
Yes, there is a good loop trail on the Georgia AT called the Georgia Loop Trail. Take the Benton MacKaye Trail north from it southern terminus at Springer Mountain to Three Forks (crosses the AT at both these points). At Three Forks, pick up the Duncan Ridge Trail (which shares the trailway with the Benton MacKaye until Rhodes Mountain) and stay on it until it ends on the AT at Slaughter Gap (a couple of miles south of Neels Gap). From there, take the AT south to its southern terminus at Springer Mountain. I think it is about 60-65 miles. If you want to shorten it by about 10 miles, you can start and end at Three Forks. The Duncan Ridge Trail is one of the tougher sections of trail in Georgia, they don't use the 'ridge' word for nothing, and crosses the beautiful Tocca River on a one of a kind suspension bridge that was originally built by the GATC but is now maintained by the Benton MacKaye Trail Association (check out their web site for some photo's and trail descriptions). Everyone is amazed by the river and bridge and there are great campsites on both sides of the river (there are no water crossings on the AT in Georgia that compares with this). There is a small convience store about 0.3 mile east on GA60 where the Duncan Ridge/Benton MacKaye Trail crosses GA60 and Mountain Crossings is an outfitter with food supplies located at Neels Gap. There is about a 12-15 mile section on the Duncan Ridge Trail between Rhodes Mountain and Slaughter Gap where you won't find water on the trail, you will have to hike down off the ridgeline to find water. For anyone that has already hiked the AT in Georgia and is up for a challenge, I would recommend the Benton MacKaye Trail/Duncan Ridge Trail as an alternative to the AT between Springer Mountain and Slaughter Gap.
Mt. Rogers Nat'l Recreation area in Va., near Damascus makes for a great loop hike. Start at Grayson Highlands State Park on rt. 58 (secure parking for 1-2 bucks a day).
Several loops possible, incorporating the AT and Iron Mountain Trail (former AT). A map would make for good planning and a more enjoyable hike. Might purchase one from outfitter, or just buy the Guide for S Va.; it includes a map and used to include a description of the IMT.
The most popular route is about 54? mi. long. This could be shortened. It could be lenghtened by going on to Damascus.
Parking in Damascus would let you see the best in the middle of the hike (in Grayson Highlands area). Lone Wolf might have knowledge of parking options in Damascus.
This is a great place for bushwhacking!
Yup. Groucho is right. There are all kinds of loop options in the Grayson Highlands/Mt. Rogers/Damascus area. Park at my place free, I live in Damascus, I'll shuttle you for free and let you use my Trails Illustrated map of the area for free. E-mail me or PM if y'all are interested. You won't be disappointed.
Spread out the maps. There are all kinds of great loop hikes along the AT. Besides Georgia and SW Virginia, you might consider Great Smokies National Park, a loop hike in Ronake area using the old AT and McAfee Knob, Shenandoah National Park, Connecticut using the old AT through Cathedral Pines, White Mountains of New Hampshire, Tuscurra Trail and AT in Northern Virginia up into Pennsylvania.
You might think about Shennandoah National Park...if you're interested in the side trails consult Henry Heatwoles on-line guide book to the park which lists most of the side trails in Shennandoah...using the AT it is possible to link very long hikes...the guide can be found at http://www.ajheatwole.com/guide/
In addition, have a look at the Potomic Applachian Trail Club's web-site for guides to other loops in Virginia and Southern Pennsylvania...PATC is at:
You could start at Greenbrier in the Smokys, hike up to Mt. Leconte shelter on night 1 (about 10 miles or so). Then, down the Boulevard trail to the AT, which you take to Pecks Corner (about 13 miles, very scenic). Next day along the AT the junction with Snake Den Ridge/Madron Bald. Along this trail to the old settlers trail. There are a couple of campgrounds, one forward, and one backwards. The last day, along the old settlers trail back to greenbrier. You can lengthen the trip by running further along the AT. If you can put in a 70 mile or so hike in the 4-5 day, run all the way on the AT to Mt. Cammerer (great stuff), then down on the Lower Mount Cammerer trail to Cosby Campground, where you can pick up a trail that takes you past another waterfall at ends at the Old Settlers trail.
and in mid-may the mrytle will be in bloom on charlies bunion on the AT in the smokies
There are some SPECTACULAR loops in the Whites (NH). I could suggest one that would include 12 4K mountains, (10 that officially qualify for the NH 4K list). The route also includes two great ridges walks, Franconia Ridge, Bondcliff, and some of the best views in NH. It's a great little 4 day trip and includes my FAVORITE mountains in NH, THE BONDS!!!!
CAUTION: If this trip is done in May, plan on running into deep snow in certain locations...it's almost a guarantee.
Day 1, start at Lincoln Woods, off the Kancamagus Highway, formerly known as the Wilderness Trail, take Osseo Trail to Mt. Flume. On top of Flume take Franconia Ridge Trail to Mt. Liberty, head down Liberty Springs Trail to the Liberty Springs Campsite to spend night 1 and pick up some GREAT TASTING WATER.
Day 2, Head Up Liberty Spring Trail to Franconia Ridge go over Little Haystack, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Lafayette and take the Garfield Ridge Trail to Mt. Garfield, head down to Garfield Campsite for night 2 and some more GREAT TASTING WATER.
Day 3 Take Garfield Ridge Trail to Galehead Hut...it will be a zoo there, just hike past the crowd or pick up water at the hut and if you want to bag Mt. Galehead head southwest a bit past the hut and take the Frost trail to the Summit of Mt. Galehead, it's only a half mile to the summit, not the spectacular views of Mt. Garfield but a nice view from an outlook into the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Now go back down and pick up the Twinway Trail to the summit of South Twin, head down Twinway to Bondcliff trail and take a side trip if you want to Mt. Guyot. Head down Bondcliff Trail to the Guyot Campsite set up, eat something, pick up some more GREAT TASTING WATER and head for West Bond for the evening sunset.
Day 4 Take Bondcliff Trail over Bond, and over Bondcliff , head down Bondcliff Trail, be careful at one of the last crossings of Black Brook, as of last year it was not very well marked but if you get messed up there just head down the steam and look west and you WILL see the trail eventually. At the end of Bondcliff Trail take the Wilderness Trail heading southwest.
Another suggestion I could give you that is great would be a loop involving the Dry River Wilderness and over the NH Southern Presidentials via Crawford Path and Webster-Cliff Trail, a nice 3 day trip. (Let me know if you are interested in hearing about that one also.) If you included Mt Washington as a side trip that would take in 6 4K mountains, (5 that would officially qualify for the NH 4K list). If you are looking for something a bit more private there are some other suggestions as well. In May you WILL most likely run into snow and it CAN be deep at the higher elevations before treeline. (The snow can hold into June on many of the trails but above treeline the sun will melt most of it.) The nighttime temps can be in the teens, translation: NO BUGS but the mid-day temps are usually fairly nice, the bugs, depending on temps can start around Mothers Day. Besides Fall, May is a favorite time for me to hike, fewer people!!
BTW...I DO NOT, and I repeat, I DO NOT recommend hiking in this area WITHOUT a map, proper gear or the most recent weather report known to man. I URGE you to obtain the latest maps you can. Maps of this area are available in TYVEK and hold up well to the winds and unpredictable weather. Paper maps can tear easily in wind conditions that occur frequently in this area, especially above treeline. I would recommend if you are hiking in this area to carry them and a compass and know how to use it. ALSO, be prepared, you CAN run into surprise snowstorms in MAY.
A friend of mine does the 4-day Pemi route you described as a day hike. He calls it the "Grand Loop". He also did the Dry River loop in a day, but camped a few miles in on the Dry River Trail. I did the Dry River trail in December and would caution anyone that the Dry River trail is not well marked (there are no blazes), the stream crossings can be difficult or impossible, and there are many many blowdowns in there now which will probably not be cleared until mid-summer.
Yeah, I know there are a bunch of people who do it as a day hike, LOTS of elevation gain and milage...I don't think I'd want to try it and I especially would not want to try it in MAY!!!!! At my age I'd much prefer to stop and smell the roses. I'll keep my biggie to a Bonds traverse!!! I'm glad your friend can enjoy it, HYOH!!!
ALSO: For anyone who might want to consider doing this loop in a day it would encompass close to 10,000 feet in elevation gain (including side trips and dips to pick up water) and over 32 miles.
BTW...I'm GLAD YOU MENTIONED THIS:
I did the Dry River trail in December and would caution anyone that the Dry River trail is not well marked (there are no blazes)
That is ONE of the trails I feel is in DIRE need of blazes, it's where Rambler got lost last fall. There is at least ONE person on this board who thinks that the trails are ALL in great shape and this is a prime example of one that is NOT. (It is VERY, VERY, difficult to follow with SNOW on the ground.)
All the northern trail maintaining clubs recommend that you stay off the higher elevations until after Memorial Day. The reason is that the trails are very fragile with the frost coming out of the ground.
So, while there are great loops and hikes up there, please try to postpone the trip until later in the season.
That practice applies ONLY to NY and VT, NOT the Whites, HECK, you can even make HUT reservations in MAY at two of the huts that are along the loop I suggested. (Both Galehead and Greenleaf are open on a caretaker basis starting in mid-May.)
Both GMC in VT and the High Peaks in NY ask people to keep off the trails during mud season and freeze thaw cycles. The AMC in the Whites does NOT restrict or ask people to stay off the trails, it's even the official begining of THEIR season!!!!
The Smokies loops can be a problem because of registration. There are a large number of people doing hikes in the SMNP and the shelters are usually full in May. There are a large number of campsites on the loop trails but you have to register for about hald of them and a large number of them are also closed in May because of bear activity. I have hiked in the Smokies for 40+ years and I always make plans for at least 3 different loops when I go. And sometimes none of them are available. At lower elevations you do have bears in SMNP.
You can make reservations a month in advance for the shelters. I haven't had a problem getting reservations if I call early. If I wait till two weeks before (during a popular time), then I get shut out. If you want to stay in a shelter not on the AT, then chances are good that you'll get a slot even one short notice. LeConte, maybe not, but Kephart and Laurel Gap should be no problem. Laurel Gap is pretty convenient for loop hiking as well.
There are plenty of bears at higher elevations as well. Mollies Ridge, Russell Field, and Spence Field are all visited regularly by the trained bears that live in Cades Cove, just a few miles downhill.
I still think Standing Indian, there are a lot of side trails to make loop hikes possible. There are some cool places to visit such as Standing Indian Mountain, John Wasklisk Memorial Poplar, Albert Mountain, etc.
My advise would be to get off of the AT. Its too crowded. There are some great trails in the Pisgah National Forest where you could wander around for days and not retrace your steps. The Mountain to Sea Trail is there, as is the Art Loeb Trail, and lots of trails linking various areas of the NF. Shining Rock is a great place to wander up to and around. You'll hardly see anyone if you go mid-week. Get maps though as the trails are not marked anything like the AT. You'll need maps & a compass for sure.
BTW, the Pisgah is in NC close to Asheville.